skip to main content
Show Results with:

Diagnosis and causal explanation in psychiatry

Maung, Hane Htut

Studies in history and philosophy of science. Part C. Studies in history and philosophy of biological and biomedical sciences. Volume 60 (2016, December); pp 15-24 -- Elsevier Ltd

Online access

  • Title:
    Diagnosis and causal explanation in psychiatry
  • Author: Maung, Hane Htut
  • Found In: Studies in history and philosophy of science. Part C. Studies in history and philosophy of biological and biomedical sciences. Volume 60 (2016, December); pp 15-24
  • Journal Title: Studies in history and philosophy of science. Part C. Studies in history and philosophy of biological and biomedical sciences
  • Subjects: Biologie--Histoire--Périodiques; Biologie--Philosophie--Périodiques; Médecine--Histoire--Périodiques; Médecine--Philosophie--Périodiques; Sciences de la santé--Histoire--Périodiques; Sciences de la santé--Philosophie--Périodiques; Bioethics--Periodicals; Biology--Periodicals; Biology--Philosophy--Periodicals; Medicine--History--Periodicals; Medicine--Philosophy--Periodicals; Natural history--Periodicals; Psychiatry--Diagnosis--Causal explanation--Causal heterogeneity--Major depressive disorder; Dewey: 570.1
  • Rights: legaldeposit
  • Publication Details: Elsevier Ltd
  • Abstract: Abstract:

    In clinical medicine, a diagnosis can offer an explanation of a patient's symptoms by specifying the pathology that is causing them. Diagnoses in psychiatry are also sometimes presented in clinical texts as if they pick out pathological processes that cause sets of symptoms. However, current evidence suggests the possibility that many diagnostic categories in psychiatry are highly causally heterogeneous. For example, major depressive disorder may not be associated with a single type of underlying pathological process, but with a range of different causal pathways, each involving complex interactions of various biological, psychological, and social factors. This paper explores the implications of causal heterogeneity for whether psychiatric diagnoses can be said to serve causal explanatory roles in clinical practice. I argue that while they may fall short of picking out a specific cause of the patient's symptoms, they can nonetheless supply different sorts of clinically relevant causal information. In particular, I suggest that some psychiatric diagnoses provide negative information that rules out certain causes, some provide approximate or disjunctive information about the range of possible causal processes, and some provide causal information about the relations between the symptoms themselves.

    Highlights:

    Psychiatric diagnoses exhibit high degrees of causal heterogeneity and complexity.

    This suggests psychiatric diagnoses fall short of diagnostic ideal in medicine.

    However, some psychiatric diagnoses offer other sorts of explanatory information.


  • Identifier: System Number: LDEAvdc_100039535538.0x000001; Journal ISSN: 1369-8486; 10.1016/j.shpsc.2016.09.003
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Physical Description: Electronic
  • Shelfmark(s): ELD Digital store

Searching Remote Databases, Please Wait